While automotive universe deals with Covid-19 crisis, classic sales are thriving

The lockdowns caused by coronavirus pandemic have stalled production lines and hit new-car sales with declines of 20% and more.However, the market demand for classics and collectables hasn't been hurt.
| Updated on: 31 Jul 2020, 03:12 PM
Photo courtesy: Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance
Photo courtesy: Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance

In an automotive universe completely reconfigured after the Covid-19 pandemic shutdowns stalled production lines and hit new-car sales with declines of 20% and more, here’s one area the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t hurt: the values of, and market demand for, classic and collectable sales.

“It’s been a wild ride, but it’s been good—it’s been really good," David Gooding tells me, adding that Gooding & Co.’s private-sale business is booming.

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“I’ve had people ask ‘Have you seen pressure sales, desperation?’ And I haven’t. A lot of the people who own these cars have a lot of money. I just haven’t seen one desperate sale. The market is strong."

We met in the new warehouse his eponymous company bought in July in order to centrally house its catalog of cars because the auctions typically held during Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance would not be held this year.

Instead, Gooding and his crew will hold their first-ever online car auction. They were already planning to start incorporating online sales to augment live auctions, especially for more modern, collectable cars that younger buyers would be interested in owning. Covid-19 simply sped up the process, he says. 

(Also read: In the new world order of cars, classics are busy changing hands)

“The success of [online auction site] Bring a Trailer has helped us," Gooding says. “Does that mean every online sale will work? No. But I am quite confident."

The sale isn’t a direct replacement for Pebble—the cars that were slated for that sale are not being sold here. But the 54 lots include everything from a golden 1972 Volvo 1800 ES (estimate: $25,000 to $35,000) and a 1941 Ford half-ton pickup ($25,000 to $35,000) to a two-tone mobster green Bugatti Type 57 Cabriolet ($1.3 million to $1.6 million) and three of the “Ferrari Five," an Enzo, an F40, and an F50. (The 288 GTO and LaFerrari, neither of which is on sale, constitute the missing pair.)

Bidding will open at 9 a.m. West Coast time on Monday, Aug. 3, and will run through noon West Coast time on Friday, Aug. 7. Here are the most important lots to watch.

1966 Ferrari 275 GTB Longnose

1966 Ferrari 275 GTB Longnose. Photo courtesy: Gooding & Company
1966 Ferrari 275 GTB Longnose. Photo courtesy: Gooding & Company

Lot: 56 Estimate: $2.75 million–$3.25 million

Why it’s worth watching: The star car of the sale, this Ferrari will indicate how, if at all, Covid-19 has affected the appetite for the world’s premier blue-chip collectable brand.

The late-production 275 Ferrari comes with the rare torque-tube engine configuration and factory six-carburetor intake. A further special detail: the factory-optioned gas cap placed on the exterior of the car. Rare (for Ferrari) in factory stock white (“Bianco") with a pristine original tan interior, the car has been kept in well-loved condition by discerning owners and is accompanied by two sets of wheels, owners manuals, and other spare parts.

 1971 Porsche 911 ST Rally

Lot: 61 Estimate: $950,000–$1.25 million

Why it’s worth watching: Rally cars, especially of the Porsche variety, have become extremely desirable in recent months. It will be noteworthy to see whether this one will confirm or buck the trend.

Although it was not raced—which may be why it survives—this practice car, developed for the 1971 East African Safari Rally, was owned by commercial director Jeff Zwart. It has a unique configuration that includes a strengthened body shell with extra structural reinforcements and wide rear fender flares, revised gear ratios, a 40% locking differential, and increased oil capacity. It is painted and wrapped in period-correct livery and even carries the original padlock Sears placed on the hood to hold down its branding signage.

 1967 Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser

Lot: 66 Estimate: $60,000–$80,000

Why it’s worth watching: With the hype surrounding the new Ford Bronco and Land Rover Defender and their respective original versions, can an early compatriot hold its own?

The two-door soft-top comes in traditional light-olive paint over a Coral Livery interior. All is not perfectly original, but that’s probably for the best, mechanically speaking. Restorations have included a more-modern Toyota 2F engine, electric power steering, Old Man Emu suspension, and a new exhaust system.

 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing

1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing. Photo courtesy: Gooding & Company
1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing. Photo courtesy: Gooding & Company

Lot: 76 Estimate: $1.2 million–$1.4 million

Why it’s worth watching: Whether in gullwing or roadster form, Mercedes 300 SLs are perennial favorites with collectors; they have long held their value, and the pandemic is not expected to sap that lasting power. To find one that will become a project is the lifelong dream of many collectors.

The fact that this car is original, unrestored, with the rare factory-equipped “Rudge" wheels, makes this car extremely special; some SL owners may be tempted to buy this car just for them. But it’ll take some doing to get this vehicle sorted for road use.“Recently acquired by the consignor, the gullwing has been started for the first time in many years, but will require mechanical re-commissioning work before road use," as the auction catalogue puts it.

 1955 Porsche 356 Speedster

Lot: 67 Estimate: $200,000–$250,000

Why it’s worth watching: Unrestored “barn finds" have been popular over the past two or three years, especially for collectors of Jaguars, Mustangs, and Porsches. If it sells—and at what price—will help indicate whether that trend is to continue.

With just three owners since 1965, this is a Porsche-phile’s dream find: completely untouched and unrestored, in factory-original paint and just waiting for some love. Gooding notes that the tiny two-seater, with a rare roll-bar and caged headlights, is perfect candidate for a complete concours-quality restoration, outlaw build, or mechanical recommissioning, readying it for use in the numerous rallies and exclusive Porsche events.

First Published Date: 31 Jul 2020, 03:12 PM IST

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